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Thread: I reckon Mozart wouldn't have enjoyed Lang Lang...

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    Senior Member Kieran's Avatar
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    Default I reckon Mozart wouldn't have enjoyed Lang Lang...

    I posted this elsewhere, but I wonder what you think.

    From the Compleat Mozart:

    We may guess how Mozart played the violin, for he valued in performers what we value in his music: beauty, clarity, logic, balance. When he was pleased with a performance, he reported that "It went smoothly as oil." Not for him the pyrotechnics of the violinists Pietro Antonio Locatelli or Giovanni Battista Viotti. Once, after hearing a difficult violin concerto performed, he informed his father that he enjoyed it, but added, "You know I'm no lover of difficulties." The paradox is that Mozart's playing down of virtuosity for its own sake in his own violin concertos makes them harder, not easier, to perform well. Sheer technique and bravura cannot be used in these works to compensate for a lack of thoughtful, sensitive musicianship.

    (Neal Zaslaw)
    I'm only using Lang Lang as an example, since I saw him perform some Schubert a few years ago and it's as if he grew fingers in the playing in order to be louder, racier, more manic and showy. It was highly entertaining and "pyrotechnic", but is this the reason Mozart's music is often described as "light", and treated like the salad before the meat? I still hear it said, and when I see Liszt performed, the thunder echoes in the sky long after I've gone home.

    I don't really know what I want to say, other than having read this passage by Neal Zaslaw, it struck me quite forcefully. It helped me locate why Mozart's reputation suffered in the 19th century, and also, how music developed after Mozart's death. A couple of pages later, Zaslaw states that "Beethoven's violin concerto of 1806 owes more to the example of the famous composer-virtuoso Giovanni Battista Viotti than to that of Mozart."

    By the way, I don't blame virtuoso players showing their undoubted skills. I'm going to see Lang Lang later in the year! And there's surely room for every taste in music. But the more difficult part is "thoughtful, sensitive musicianship", isn't it?

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    Senior Member Sid James's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kieran View Post
    ...And there's surely room for every taste in music. But the more difficult part is "thoughtful, sensitive musicianship", isn't it?...
    Interesting thoughts there. I think Mozart did meet Beethoven privately, though, & asked the younger composer to play for him. By all accounts, Mozart was impressed, & said words to the effect that young Ludwig van was "one to watch." Mozart was also willing to teach him, but died before this could happen (& as we know, Haydn took Mozart's place). So it begs the question that if Mozart liked what he heard of Beethoven's totally different piano playing style, wouldn't you think he'd have been open to what the next generation eventually came to do (& make commonplace) to some degree?

    ...It helped me locate why Mozart's reputation suffered in the 19th century, and also, how music developed after Mozart's death. A couple of pages later, Zaslaw states that "Beethoven's violin concerto of 1806 owes more to the example of the famous composer-virtuoso Giovanni Battista Viotti than to that of Mozart."
    But by the same token, Beethoven adored Mozart's music, eg. did quite a few variations on his themes. Beethoven would also take a phrase by Mozart & "work on it" & create it into something which became his own, a new creation from the older music. I think Chopin also admired Mozart's music a lot (the Pole was also a big fan of opera, the genre in which Mozart's star probably never dimmed since his death). Tchaikovsky was also a kind of Mozartian of his day, producing a number of works that attest to this - eg. the Rococo Variations for cello & orch., as well as the Suite #4 "Mozartiana." So Mozart still did have a lot of admirers after his death & this continues to today.

    I think what you are speaking to is maybe more about performer's styles and areas of interest/repertoire. Lang Lang is probably not the right "fit" for Mozart's music, but maybe (I'm guessing here) neither is Pierre Boulez? Of course, both Lang Lang & Boulez can perform Mozart if they want to (all musicians study his music & know it well, they need this to get where they are as elite musicians) but it doesn't mean that it's their usual thing, so to speak...
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    Senior Member Kieran's Avatar
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    Thanks Sid, that's interesting. I suppose since I got into Classical music, I love the flashy fireworks displays - and as I say, we're going to see Lang Lang in Dublin in September because he's a simply brilliant musician - but I also love less explicit music more. It moves me, when music is more subtle, and less exact about its intentions.

    Chopin loved Mozart for the logic in his music. The smooth seams between the themes.

    Here's an interesting anecdote referring to Franz Liszt:

    In 1844, the 33-year-old pianist was on one of his exhausting, triumphal European tours, giving enormous and enormously popular solo “recitals” (an idea he invented), while fending off (or pretending to fend off) the numerous high-born women who flung themselves at him. One of the stops on this tour was Montpellier, where a local music-lover reproached him for playing Bach’s A minor Prelude and Fugue in a flashy and vulgar way.

    Liszt patiently showed him his three ways of playing Bach’s piece.

    The first way was simple and unfussy, “as the author must have understood it”, as Liszt explained. Then he played it again, “with a slightly more picturesque movement and a more modern style”. Then, as he lit a cigar, Liszt said: “Now here is the way I would play it for the public – to astonish, as a charlatan.” And he then played the piece, so the cowed and overwhelmed Frenchman tells us, with all kinds of virtuoso feats that were “prodigious, incredible, fabulous” – while still managing to smoke his cigar.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/m...esistible.html
    The point being, Liszt was aware of his reputation, but it didn't matter to him. I suppose there's a dichotomy between the performer and the piece. The performer interprets to suit the performance they have in mind, even though it maybe at odds with the composers intentions. The showman pleases the audience with their own abilities, which can be extraordinary.

    Here's Leopold Mozart, on such showmen:

    "There are a great many such bad habits. The most common of these are the moving of the violin; the turning to and fro of the body or head; the twisting of the mouth or wrinkling of the nose, especially when something a little difficult is to be played; the hissing, whistling, or any too audible blowing with the breath from the mouth, throat or nose when playing a difficult note; the forced and unnatural distortion of the right and left hand, especially of the elbow, and finally the violent movement of the whole body whereby the floor or the whole room in which he plays is shaken and the spectators are moved either to laughter or pity at the sight of so laborious a wood-chopper."

    Leopold Mozart, Violinschule, 1756, p. 61 in the Editha Knocker translation.
    Obviously, such showboating displays weren't to the taste of the Mozarts! Now, clearly there's more to Lang Lang than just pyrotechnics. And also, such showmanship is entertaining and exciting, as well as perfectly suited to some works, and it pre-dates the Romantic period too, as shown by Leopold's writing. But effects and expounding in music can become wearisome, too. Or as Zaslaw states:"Sheer technique and bravura cannot be used in these works to compensate for a lack of thoughtful, sensitive musicianship."
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    Senior Member kv466's Avatar
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    Lang Lang, Shmlang shmlang!...I honeslty don't think W.A. would even consider this guy or most of the calibur...if there's one person Mozart would be proud of meeting is Glenn Gould...because he didn't anyone's ****** and because he elevated the music of a master to levels he perhaps never even thought imaginable...anyone who thinks different is either stuck to the paper in front of them or simply hate perfection and greatness; probably because they know deep inside they'll never acheive it...don't get me wrong...there are plenty of excellent Mozart players but this two-named nobody shouldn't be put in the same sentence
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    Senior Member Kieran's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kv466 View Post
    if there's one person Mozart would be proud of meeting is Glenn Gould...
    I dunno, Glenn Gould hated Mozart, didn't he? This stops me listening to him playing any Wolfgang...

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    Senior Member Sofronitsky's Avatar
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    Lang Lang: The least brilliant of the musical geniuses.

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    Senior Member regressivetransphobe's Avatar
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    I can't really blame anyone who has animosity toward Lang Lang. 99% of the performance seems to be his dramatic, heaving flourishes and silly rhapsodic gestures; the music seems to play second fiddle.
    People who hide are afraid!

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    Senior Member Sid James's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kieran View Post
    Thanks Sid, that's interesting. I suppose since I got into Classical music, I love the flashy fireworks displays - and as I say, we're going to see Lang Lang in Dublin in September because he's a simply brilliant musician - but I also love less explicit music more. It moves me, when music is more subtle, and less exact about its intentions.
    Well, I suppose the finest of the finest musicians can kind of do both - balance their outward brilliance with a kind of subtlety. Last night I listened to an LP of pianist Emil Gilels playing Prokofiev's music, & on the back there was a quote from Shostakovich about this pianist. He basically said something like he thought Gilels was a great pianist because he remained faithful to the composer's intentions while still opening up new & kind of personal insights in their music. Listening to Mr Gilels' performance on that recording, I couldn't help but agree strongly with Shostakovich's assesment of the man. Gilels was both so intense, "on fire" & as soft as a woman's caress - which kind of reflects these kinds of contrasts in Prokofiev's music...

    The point being, Liszt was aware of his reputation, but it didn't matter to him. I suppose there's a dichotomy between the performer and the piece. The performer interprets to suit the performance they have in mind, even though it maybe at odds with the composers intentions. The showman pleases the audience with their own abilities, which can be extraordinary.
    Yes, your quote speaks to the fact that musicians can interpret the same piece in many different ways. They know "all the tricks in the book," it's part of their "trade," or art, craft, etc. They don't study their craft for years for nothing. I've been to a number of concerts were the musicians demonstrated different ways to play the same piece. Sometimes I could hear it, but other times it went over my head.

    Speaking to Liszt, I know that audiences back then mainly wanted him to play what we'd call the "warhorses." If he played anything of his own, it was usually his transcriptions of other composer's pieces. I think I remember reading that he never actually played his now famous Piano Sonata in B minor live in recital. I know he played it privately to other musicians - the young Brahms, on a visit to Liszt at Weimar, was treated to a performance of it by the composer, but our Johannes apparently dozed off in the middle of it!!! So there you go, if someone like Brahms wasn't interested in "the real deal" regarding Liszt's finest compositions, then how do you think that the audiences at his public concerts would have reacted? Would they have left halfway through, citing the piece being too long? A critic did this at the premiere of Schubert's Grand Duo for violin & piano during the 1820's, he walked out on the grounds that he thought it had too many repeats & was too long - but the next generation, incl. Schumann, praised Schubert's music for it's "heavenly length." So times kind of change regarding "what's hot" & "what's not"...

    Obviously, such showboating displays weren't to the taste of the Mozarts! Now, clearly there's more to Lang Lang than just pyrotechnics. And also, such showmanship is entertaining and exciting, as well as perfectly suited to some works, and it pre-dates the Romantic period too, as shown by Leopold's writing. But effects and expounding in music can become wearisome, too. Or as Zaslaw states:"Sheer technique and bravura cannot be used in these works to compensate for a lack of thoughtful, sensitive musicianship."
    I don't like seeing Lang Lang play, but then again, I'm not a fan of things like Glenn Gould's grunting either (sorry, member KV466! ). But I suppose at the end of the day, this has little to do with the quality of their actual performance. As for Lang Lang "banging" on the keyboard, Martha Argerich has a propensity to do that as well, but most people still agree she's got the goods as a pianist. I personally haven't liked what I've heard from her for that reason, what I've heard of her playing has seemed to lack subtlety. It's alright to "bang" but if you do it, it's better to do it with an ear for other things as well, a bit like Gilels or Richter or Horowitz did...
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    Senior Member pjang23's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kv466 View Post
    if there's one person Mozart would be proud of meeting is Glenn Gould
    Love the irony.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sofronitsky View Post
    Lang Lang: The least brilliant of the musical geniuses.
    There is no genius in his work. He is a celebrity, not an artist.
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    I just checked with Mozart and he said he is awed by Lang Lang. And he likes his piano playing very much.
    Last edited by mitchflorida; Sep-03-2012 at 00:51.
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    Senior Member moody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kv466 View Post
    Lang Lang, Shmlang shmlang!...I honeslty don't think W.A. would even consider this guy or most of the calibur...if there's one person Mozart would be proud of meeting is Glenn Gould...because he didn't anyone's ****** and because he elevated the music of a master to levels he perhaps never even thought imaginable...anyone who thinks different is either stuck to the paper in front of them or simply hate perfection and greatness; probably because they know deep inside they'll never acheive it...don't get me wrong...there are plenty of excellent Mozart players but this two-named nobody shouldn't be put in the same sentence
    Don't get so excitable. you know it's bad for your blood pressure.
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    Regarding Lang Lang, when he is good, he is very good indeed. And when he is bad, he can ruin a piece for me. But I do like his batting average . . Even Babe Ruth struck out 2/3 of the time

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    Quote Originally Posted by mitchflorida View Post
    Regarding Lang Lang, when he is good, he is very good indeed. And when he is bad, he can ruin a piece for me. But I do like his batting average . . Even Babe Ruth struck out 2/3 of the time
    That's too many thirds.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kv466 View Post
    Lang Lang, Shmlang shmlang!...I honeslty don't think W.A. would even consider this guy or most of the calibur...if there's one person Mozart would be proud of meeting is Glenn Gould...because he didn't anyone's ****** and because he elevated the music of a master to levels he perhaps never even thought imaginable...anyone who thinks different is either stuck to the paper in front of them or simply hate perfection and greatness; probably because they know deep inside they'll never acheive it...don't get me wrong...there are plenty of excellent Mozart players but this two-named nobody shouldn't be put in the same sentence
    I found this on Wikipedia and thought of you, kv, knowing what a Wildean you are:

    Critics who feel that his playing is vulgar and lacks sensitivity have given him the nickname "Bang Bang". Pianist Earl Wild called him "the J. Lo of the piano."
    Last edited by Mephistopheles; Sep-30-2012 at 23:11.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kv466 View Post
    Lang Lang, Shmlang shmlang!...I honeslty don't think W.A. would even consider this guy or most of the calibur...if there's one person Mozart would be proud of meeting is Glenn Gould...because he didn't anyone's ****** and because he elevated the music of a master to levels he perhaps never even thought imaginable...anyone who thinks different is either stuck to the paper in front of them or simply hate perfection and greatness; probably because they know deep inside they'll never acheive it...don't get me wrong...there are plenty of excellent Mozart players but this two-named nobody shouldn't be put in the same sentence
    I have to agree with Kieran here...Gould couldn't stand Mozart, so I think its kind of odd to suggest Mozart would be 'proud' to meet him. Would you be 'proud' to meet someone who couldn't stand you? I know this is all hypothetical but still... I also have an objection to the word perfection used in reference to Gould's playing. I will concede greatness, but his perfection is ruined by his humming and the fact his interpretations are fairly one-dimensional, and very based on technicality and showmanship. When I listen to Gould I hear Gould. I don't hear the composer's composition so much. Those are the reasons I think he lacks perfection as a player and I don't generally enjoy listening to him. Music is about a lot more than technical greatness to me. Especially within the Classical tradition one of these elements is a certain level of respect in my opinion. Gould strikes me as disrespectful in many ways. His lack of practicing, criticisms of composers, and general disregard for what is written in scores, his humming over the music etc. I'm not saying one can't ever criticize, or they can't stray from scores, but all these things put together in Gould makes him come across to me as a very narcissistic personality who feels his contributions to the music are somehow greater than the composers, and I think this comes across in his playing. As I said I'm not debating Glenn's greatness, but I do debate your claims of perfection and superiority over all other players. I would take many many pianists over him any day and if I was a composer I wouldn't want an individual like that playing any of my music, and I would not feel proud to meet him. In general his playing lacks interpretive genius (which I feel is more impressive than technical skill). He was a great player no doubt, a one of a kind, technically amazing player - yes. But was he well-rounded enough to be considered the perfect player? In my opinion not even close.

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